NLRB Attempts to Deceive Court on Critical Workers’ Rights Issue
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bill Clinton’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is attempting to dupe the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a cynical and desperate attempt to prevent the court from excoriating the Board for delay.
Rather than issue a long-awaited ruling in Pirlott v. Teamsters Local 75, to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s edicts regarding union organizing costs, the Board recently shuffled the case back into the bowels of its bureaucracy.
As reported in the July/August issue of Foundation Action, Foundation staff attorneys representing the Pirlotts filed suit earlier this year against the NLRB with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The suit asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus, which would force the recalcitrant federal labor board to finally issue a decision in a case it had covered up for more than seven years.
Teamsters lawyers sue workers for not toeing the line
Over ten years ago, Sherry Pirlott served as a steward for Teamsters Local 75 at the Schreiber Foods cheese company in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their "partnership" was short lived.
"It was very clear from the beginning that the other union stewards did things for the betterment of the union, not for the betterment of the workers," said Sherry Pirlott. "I just did what I thought was right, and the other stewards didn’t like that one bit."
The tensions between Mrs. Pirlott and the other union stewards heightened to a point that Mrs. Pirlott stated she was threatened with bodily harm for not toeing the line.
Finally, Mrs. Pirlott had enough and refused to continue to financially support the union or its politics with her forced dues. A few months later, Teamsters Local 75 officials sued her in small-claims court to force her to pay for union activities.
To no avail, Mrs. Pirlott searched the entire Green Bay area for an attorney to help her in her defense.
"Every lawyer I contacted was afraid to fight the unions. Once I told them I was being sued by the Teamsters, they would refuse to help," she said.
Before learning of the Foundation’s free legal aid program, Mrs. Pirlott was forced to defend herself in court against a Teamsters representative who, according to Mrs. Pirlott, openly talked with the judge in the courtroom about the dinner they had shared the night before! The judge refused to hear her arguments and quickly awarded judgment to the Teamsters.
That’s when she discovered the National Right to Work Foundation Legal Defense Foundation.
NLRB further stonewalls workers’ attempts at justice
Foundation attorneys quickly filed unfair labor practice charges against Teamsters Local 75 with the NLRB on behalf of Sherry Pirlott and her husband David, also an employee at Schreiber Foods.
As with so many other cases, the union brass had illegally rebuffed the Pirlotts’ attempts to exercise their rights under Communications Workers v. Beck. The Foundation-won Beck Supreme Court decision established the right of workers to stop paying compulsory union dues for politics and other non-bargaining activities, like organizing.
In 1992, the Pirlotts won a mostly favorable decision before an NLRB administrative law judge but filed an appeal over a few issues. The union also appealed the ruling.
Since then, NLRB officials have delayed all action on the case. In fact, it is the oldest of over 100 cases in which Foundation-assisted groups of employees trying to reclaim their forced union dues used for politics are being stonewalled by the NLRB bureaucracy.
"I am not very happy with this process," said Sherry Pirlott. "We have been stonewalled and delayed at every turn. It shows just how powerful the unions really are."
The Pirlotts’ case contains several issues so far unresolved by the NLRB, such as whether employees can be fired for refusing to financially support union "organizing" drives -- a result the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled to be illegal. (Typically, organizing expenses account for over 20 percent of a union’s total budget.)
"Perhaps a desire to avoid the union organizing issue is what compelled the union handmaidens who run the NLRB to stall the case," said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation.
NLRB attempts to circumvent the law
Under mounting pressure from the Pirlotts’ lawsuit in federal court, the NLRB was finally forced to act on the case in September.
However, in a stunning display of underhandedness, the NLRB remanded the critical organizing issue back to an administrative law judge for "further record development."
"When I read the decision, I was so angry," said Mrs. Pirlott. "I thought the NLRB was supposed to protect workers’ rights."
After making its partial ruling, the Board sent a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals asking the court to dismiss the Pirlotts’ lawsuit against the Board as moot.
Foundation attorneys swing into action
Foundation attorneys immediately fired back with a response to the appellate court explaining that the Board did not offer a final decision in the case but instead had simply shuffled the case to another part of the bureaucracy.
"This shell game must end," said Gleason. "The Foundation will continue to drag these shameless union apologists into the blinding light of public disgrace."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will soon rule on this matter.
"I believe in fighting for what I think is right, and I am not about to give up," said Mrs. Pirlott.